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Government slaps arms embargo on Lebanon

Hezbollah honour guards hold Lebanese and yellow Hezbollah flags during a recent rally in Beirut

(Keystone)

The cabinet has decided to impose a ban on arms exports to Lebanon in line with a United Nations Security Council resolution.

The economics ministry said the embargo was not aimed at the Lebanese authorities but was intended to prevent Swiss weapons from reaching armed militias.

The ban is to come into force on Thursday nearly three months after the UN Security Council in New York approved a resolution in an effort to bolster a ceasefire between Israel and Lebanon.

Under the embargo all exports of weapons or weapons-related materiel to Lebanon is outlawed, including funding and brokering services as well as technical training.

The Swiss economics ministry is allowed to approve exemptions to the UN embargo if the delivery is approved by the Lebanese government or the UN forces stationed in the region (Unifil).

Swiss has exported SFr35,000 ($28,140) worth of weapons to Lebanon since 1998, including 21 firearms for the army and the presidential guard.

The cabinet decision comes a week after Switzerland introduced sanctions on North Korea over its declared nuclear test. That move also followed a UN resolution.

Meanwhile the government is facing criticism by anti-war groups and the Green Party for striking a new deal to buy military hardware from Israel.

The materiel, valued at SFr4-10 million, is needed to modernise the army's Super Puma helicopter fleet.

August ceasefire

Israel and Hezbollah militias in Lebanon agreed a truce in mid-August after a month-long conflict, in which more than 1,180 people died and much of the country's infrastructure was destroyed by Israeli air strikes, according to the UN.

UN officials have expressed concern that a power struggle between Hezbollah and leaders of the Lebanese government is spilling into the streets.

Hezbollah accuses the anti-Syrian coalition of failing to back it during the latest armed conflict with Israel and of supporting demands by the United States and Israel for the disarmament of its Shi'ite Muslim rebel groups.

swissinfo with agencies

In brief

Switzerland is contributing a total of $16 million to humanitarian aid efforts in Lebanon. Of this, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) is receiving $3.2 million.

In September the Swiss government approved an addition credit of $11.5 million for relief efforts in Lebanon.

A further $4.5 million has been earmarked to help Palestinians in the Israeli-occupied territories.

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